As part of the Au Pair Program, Host Families can set household rules for the au pair to follow. This can include things like work-day and weekend curfews, telephone, tv and internet usage, and responding to kid’s misbehavior. Summer Blackhurst agrees with me when she says that Host Families should make the au pair an equal parenting partner who should feel safe to report any bad behavior the children might exhibit.
I would like to spend a few minutes to talk about what fair rules might look like for a family to try to teach their au pair when approaching typical misbehavior of the children. First of all, Host Parents should explain to their au pair that it is normal to feel frustrated if the children do not listen, but not show that frustration to the kids by yelling or crying, and naturally, hitting is never an acceptable way for an au pair to deal with misbehavior.
Second, children will normally say things like, “It is not fair that adults always get to make the rules,” or even, “I don’t like you anymore,” or the old, “You’re not my mother so I don’t have to listen to you.” Here is the response: have both parents and all caregivers learn to reply to misbehavior with the same set of responses, and the children will learn that the rules are set and they cannot manipulate the adults.
I like that Summer advises Host Families to be totally honest with their potential au pair during the interview process about the potential behavior issues their kids may show. Don’t sugar-coat your family and then expect the au pair to be unhappy or unsure of how to manage your children. Rules are for the safety of everyone and need to be followed to keep everyone safe. One tip from my year’s of classroom experience is that kids are far more likely to follow rules, and consequences, that they participate in developing. Discuss the rules with your kids and your au pair so that everyone knows what is expected and what will happen when the rules are broken, and be as consistent as possible.
Rules should include some sort of routines for the kids. Bedtime, mealtime, and hygiene are important. If your family allows eating in the living room or makes alternate meals if the kids don’t like dinner, okay, but at least attempt to maintain some rules regarding proper nutrition and sleep while still allowing kids some choices. It is important for the parents and au pair to have some time to themselves after the children go to bed, whether separate or together, so they have some down-time and rest from parenting/care-taking responsibility.
It is imperative that rules of respect are maintained, particularly given the fact that an au pair is a guest in your home. Children should never be allowed to disrespect or purposefully disobey their au pair. Keep in mind, though, that too many rules can be stifling and even scare away some of the best au pair candidates, whether the rules are for the children, the au pair, or both.
Finally, the object of rules in our lives and our society is peaceful balance, as well as self-discipline. Your au pair is a perfect partner in this experience, as they themselves are on a journey of learning who they are and how to get along in this ever-changing world. If you think your family may benefit from a cultural childcare experience, feel free to contact me with your questions or visit us online. RI area families may be eligible to save up to 15% when you host an au pair with Go Au Pair!